RSTHC Emergency Exercise Helps Staff Train, Fends Off Flu

Reno, Nev. In a four hour period, during “Operation Take Your Best Shot” the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center staff inoculated 192 patients for the flu, all the while preparing for a potential real-life emergency.

“This was an ideal situation,” said Andrea Johnson-Harper, Director of the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center (RSTHC).  “Our staff will benefit from the mock drill, while nearly 200 of our patients not only can got a flu shot to stave off future illness, but they also got a glimpse of the inner workings of our emergency plan.”

As a recent regional influenza report paints a picture of just how dangerous and deadly the flu is, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony in partnership with the Washoe County Health District for the second year, performed the  joint emergency drill  to prepare for the possibility of an epidemic.

Suzanne Thomas, the RSIC Human Resources Clerk, smiles after being vaccinated by one of the volunteer nurses helping with Operation Take Your Best Shot.

All RSIC health care divisions and emergency respondors—tribal police, public works, public relations and emergency services—tried to vaccinate as many people as possible from 1 – 4 p.m., at the Tribal facility located at 1715 Kuenzli St.

Statistics released from the Washoe County Health District 2016-17 Influenza Surveillance Report show that out of 2,408 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases in Washoe County last flu season, 312 (13 percent) were hospitalized for more than 24 hours and eight cases patients died.

A 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study indicated that American Indians are four times more likely to die of the flu than other Americans, but experts aren’t sure why. Dr. John Redd of the Indian Health Service (IHS) said that since American Indians are more likely to have chronic health conditions such as diabetes and asthma, that is one possible reason that could explain the high death rates.

The CDC recommends flu shots to reduce chances of becoming sick with the flu and passing it along to others.  The national health protection agency states that if you have received a flu shot it can also reduce the severity of symptoms if you do catch the flu.

In the scenario for Operation Take Your Best Shot, the Washoe County Health District will have declared a health emergency due to the epidemic influenza.  RSIC community members, the Urban Indian population and RSIC employees were invited to get his/her annual flu shot while the staff tests its preparedness plan.

In addition, a mock media briefing with a description of the identified threat, statistics on the epidemic, real-time inoculation numbers, as well as a question and answer session was held in the 3Nations Wellness Center within the RSTHC.

The RSTHC is a tribally-owned and operated comprehensive clinic. The health center is committed to enhancing the quality of life of all of American Indians by providing a culturally competent and patient-centered continuum of care.

The RSTHC has a staff of over 100 employees and recorded over 50,000 patient encounters
in 2016. These encounters ranged from a simple check-up to chronic and acute conditions, or pre-natal visits, to name just a few.

Since opening in its new location in 2008, this 65,000-square-foot clinic offers specialty care in podiatry, ophthalmology, physical therapy, diabetes treatment and awareness, women’s health, psychiatry, substance abuse counseling, and more.
For additional information about Operation Take Your Best Shot, the RSIC community, culture, departments, economic developments, business opportunities and services, please contact Stacey Montooth on her cell phone at 775/842-2902, at her desk at 775/329-2936, ext. 3268 or by email at smontooth@rsic.org .